Goodnight, XY Unlimited

by James Adams

The real XY Unlimited played only one show.

XY Unlimited

XY Unlimited’s first and, in a way, only show.

On February 28th, 2010, five college grads armed only with microphones stepped in front of a four-piece rock band at The Viper Room and debuted the songs they had spent the last six months preparing. The house was packed, and the show had both the rough edges and the raw fun of a new music group getting its sea legs. CDs were signed, high-fives were dispersed, and much hooting and hollering filled the room. The future looked shiny.

A few days later, we lost our first tenor. After a fun evening learning about science together at the Natural History Museum, he broke the news to us: he and his soon-to-be wife found out they would be having a baby and, with admirable foresight, he judged being in a band less important than being a responsible parent. Go figure. We patted him on the back for a good choice, sent him on his way, and sat on the steps of the NHM side-by-side, deep in thought.

Clockwise from top-left, the original idea behind XY followed by what actually happened.

Clockwise from top-left, the original idea behind XY, followed by what actually happened.

Though we decided to continue and we kept our name, everything else about the band soon metamorphisized. We had originally intended to sing complex vocal harmonies and dance around the stage with a face-melting rock band at our backs. This setup presented us with few opportunities to perform live, however, so we eventually dusted off our acoustic instruments and learnt to accompany ourselves. As more bandmates came and went, five became four, we took our act to the streets, and then with some hard work and planning we took it to colleges across the US.

In 2013, we finally earned enough to record the dream album we had envisioned three years earlier, replete with soaring vocals and juiced-up rock instrumentals. We found the right producer, wailed into a microphone in my closet (seriously), had a desert photoshoot, and called it Omega – a tribute to the original idea behind XY, which we referred to as Project Omega before it had a name.


We were so proud of Omega, and we still are. But while we waited to record XY Unlimited’s dreams, a new band became our reality. We had overcome bizarre obstacles as this band, made strangers smile with this band, and fallen in love with vocal harmonies all over again in this band.

Now, finally, we have begun to dream of this band’s possibilities. We’re writing new songs, we’re arranging new covers in four-part harmony… and we’ve got a new name.

The people we work for.

The people we work for.


Of course, all of this means nothing without you, our amazing fans. You’ve stuck with us and believed in us for these five crazy years, through polar vortexes, harrowing drives, and intrepid root beer testing. We hope you’ll follow us into an era of new adventures, and new music.


And now, without further ado, allow me to introduce our new band: Cloudwalkers.




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The Fruits of Winter

XY at St. Paul Winter Festival

The coldest XY gig of all time: St. Paul’s Winter Festival.

We survived the yetis and frostbite of Midwestern winter. But will we survive recording four new songs in one month?

Only time, and the availability of Trader Joe’s salads, will tell.

Spring looms large and flowery, and with its floral blooms comes a flurry of XY activity. Here’s what we’re working on right now:

  1. Recording and filming four new covers. If you’ve heard us live, you’ll be very familiar with one of them. Let’s just say we’re going “metal.”
  2. Incorporating Andrew’s impressive piano skills, Christian’s exceptional bass skills, and Michael’s questionable trapeze skills into a new sonic palette.
  3. Taking new photos that will make us appear way taller than we actually are.
  4. Planning a wee little CA tour for May.
  5. Doing the 1,000,000 random internet/computer activities that make up the vast majority of most people’s work these days.
  6. Exploring new lunch options. Have you tried the Trader Joe’s Mega Crunchy Salad yet? If you have not, my good sir/madame, are you ready to change your life with just one bite of cilantro-ey goodness??

Since filming our Haley Klinkhammer cover collab, we’ve also begun looking for other artists to collaborate and make videos with. Is there an artist you love that you’d like to see us work/sing with?  Let us know in the comments below!

We can’t wait to share with you the fruits of our winter planting. Happy spring. Go smell a flower.

Kitty smells a flower

You. Smelling flowers.

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Will XY Survive the Vortex?

by James Adams

This is the fifth installment of Future Fridays, where you find out what XY Unlimited dreams about when it’s sleeping. Here we lay out our upcoming plans, and you can change the future by leaving us feedback about them!

Frozen Cars in Polar Vortex

We’re not going home until one of us looks like this.

The polar vortex has come and gone. One band shall venture forth to meet the desolation it left behind.

Are we unwise to venture into the frozen wasteland? Perhaps (yes). However, like most reluctant protagonists, circumstances forced our hands. A damsel in distress (Raeann Swedeen) summoned us to rescue her and her classmates at the College of St. Scholastica from a lack of musical Los Angeles boys. These poor souls haven’t seen a tan in weeks. Little do they know we don’t get tans, because we spend all of our time blogging indoors.

Air New Zealand Terminal

Michael, preparing for an icy journey by spending the preceding weeks in kiwiland.

Except for Michael. He’s in New Zealand, tanning. ->

We love adventures so, given that St. Scholastica is literally a castle full of trapped students, we heeded their summons. Armed with a good reason to be up there anyway, we then selected ten days worth of musical bonus missions in frosty Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. For those who live in one of those states and care to venture more than five feet from their heated homes, here’s what we’ve got planned so far:

1/29, 8pm – Northfield, MN

1/31, 7pm – Duluth, MN

2/1, 3pm – St. Paul, MN

2/2, 5:30pm – Watch Superbowl XLVIII. Michael will wear Green Bay Packers pajamas.

2/5, 8pm – Chicago, IL

2/6, 8pm – Peoria, IL

2/7, 4pm – Chicago, IL

2/8, 10pm – Chicago, IL (at the Elbo Room!)

2/9, 10pm – Milwaukee, WI

Now we need you to weigh in: where else do you think we should go? Don’t worry about our inexperience with cold weather or frozen roads –  as you can see from this video, we’re prepared to face any challenge the arctic tundra throws our way.

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Guess What XY Got For Xmas?

by James Adams

This is the eighth installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

This Christmas, Santa sent XY some serious gifts.

First and most importantly, Michael and I dominated our respective fantasy football leagues. While my cautious efforts brought me a deeper, more profound knowledge of American sportsmanship and patriotism, Michael’s crazed finagling finally taught him not to draft his platonic man-crush Aaron Rodgers in the first round – or so he claims. We’ll see if he walks the walk next season.

Just kidding about fantasy football’s supreme importance: I have something even more important. The best gift we received from Santa sings and plays the $#%$ out of a piano. He looks like this:

Fire Drew

Yes, our new bandmate has fire magic. It’s chill though, no big deal. 

Please help us in welcoming our new bandmate, Andrew Abaria. When we traveled up the West Coast in November 2013, Macain decided to be the husband and homebuilder that Valerie Stern (of Layla Layne) deserves and move on from XY’s crazy life of tours, hustle, and pigeon shelters. Luckily for us, LA had one more crazy (and crazy talented) singer/musician ready to join us for our the tour; and since Andrew learns music, vocal blends, song writes, and plays road games like a frickin’ ninja, we decided to keep him.

Did we mention he’s also a yoga master? Seriously.

We ran out of time to do an XY Christmas tune this year, so imagine our surprise – and delight – to discover that our new bandmate has an Xmas song ready to go on youtube. May it brighten your holidays the way that Andrew has already brightened XY’s future:


Here’s to more amazing gifts and surprises in the New Year. What did you get for Christmas that you’re excited about? (besides socks and underwear?) Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe!


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XY West Coast Tour 2013: Final Stats

by Michael Kohl

This is the seventh installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

XY Unlimited is obsessed with stats.

Our favorite video game genre is the RPG (“Role Playing Game”), where a slight +/-1 difference in character stats like STR (strength), DEX (dexterity) or INT (I can never figure out what this one stands for) often spells the difference between a hero’s salvation or untimely demise. James and I both participate in Fantasy Football, a popular game powered by the statistical performances of professional athletes. Christian and Andrew take turns timing each other’s back seat naps and then compare numbers later.


The back cover of our newest album showcases each band member’s stat bonuses.

One of my personal rituals after any XY tour of note is to tally up the relevant stats from that tour and post them on Facebook. We just returned from our big tour of the West Coast last night and, since usual XY blogger James is up in Stockton for Thanksgiving, now seems like the perfect opportunity to bring this tradition to a wider audience.

Without further ado, I give you the most pertinent stats racked up on our recent tour.  -M


Length of tour: 15 days

Gigs played: 19

States visited: 6

Hours in the car: 106

Miles traveled (excluding pit stops): 6,852

Farthest driving destination: Walla Walla, Washington

Most traveled road: the I-5

Hotels slept at: 4

Speeding tickets received: 1

Cars towed: 1

Longest driving day: 12 hours

Yumm Bowls consumed: 5

Most popular tour food: pizza

First runner-up: ice cream

Nuns accidentally flirted with at Subway: 2

A cappella groups performed with: 5

House concerts given: 3

NextSpace locations performed at: 3

Packets of Emergen-C used: 29

Sizable bags of candy given away at NACA West: 2

Items left/forgotten/misplaced by Christian: 4

Times Andrew asked Michael for his car keys (actual): 34

Times Andrew asked Michael for his car keys (imagined): 340

Panic attacks induced by Andrew asking Michael for his car keys: 7

Pigeons performed for (non-feral): Gemini, Mandy, Liddy, Angel, Leo, Pearl, Bijou, and Shadow (8 total)

Pigeons performed for (feral): (consult most recent avian census of Downtown Portland)

Significant others seen: 3

Percentage of band who got to see family: 100

Trips to Canada cancelled: 1

Most listened-to driving CD: Live in Japan by The Real Group

Amount of time between when XY beat the Simpsons arcade game and when the Santa Cruz pier closed, cutting power to the machine: less than one minute

New bandmates on tour: 2

Good times had: countless

Laughs accrued: countless

Amazing people met: countless

Value of tour: priceless


Is there an important stat we left out? Leave a note in the comments and we’ll make sure to account for it next time. And don’t forget to subscribe to XY Adventures by scrolling up and clicking the little “Follow” box on the right. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Seven Days on the Road

by James Adams

This is the sixth installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

Walking_San Francisco_Mission

XY walks the West Coast’s mean streets.

Yakima is a medium-sized Washington community southeast of Seattle that exports hops, wine and apples. It features vast skylines, sweeping golden landscapes of sparse foliage, and one of the more luxurious hotel breakfast buffets we’ve encountered.

Such unlooked-for breakfast surprises help heal the cuts and scrapes of seven days on tour. We’ve now covered six states in slightly less than a week, including (in no particular order) California, Oregon, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Washington. We’ve played seven shows, busked twice, and stopped at no less than three rest stops. Judging by the amount of Emergen-C wrappers on the floor of our Toyota 4-Runner, I’d say we’ve consumed about a small village’s allotment of immune-system boosters. Hey, we all have our vices.

WA Rest stop

Christian, all frosty in front of Washington’s 18th best rest stop. Michael vents his pent-up car energy with a falcon-punch.

We’ve seen and felt more than can be absorbed by the average attention span, so here’s the bulleted mid-tour report, brought to you by Clarion Hotel wi-fi: As always, trouble lurks around every corner:

  • half of us have colds (despite the vitamin-C flood).
  • We’ve already received a speeding ticket from a benevolent and merciful Washington police officer (#sarcasm).
  • Michael mysteriously injured his picking finger last night, and when we asked our audience for a band-aid they just laughed.

We’ve also had some surprise victories:

  • an open mic full of surly, talkative drunks went dead silent for our song about Trader Joe’s romance. Then they asked us for another one.
  • Andrew led us in a blistering, ego-obliterating yoga session during which he performed approximately three handstands without breaking a sweat. I barely gasped and trembled my way through crow. Still felt like a golden yoga deity afterward.
  • Performed before, after, and alongside some talented and friendly a cappella groups. Shout out to the Stanford Harmonics, Loose Interpretations, and Schwa for hosting us. We appreciate your ill songs, your warm hugs, and (in some cases) your comfy couches more than words can express.

Tonight we head to Bainbridge Island, then University of Oregon, then San Francisco for our big show at Hotel Utah!

Got any advice for some road-weary travelers? Feel like sending some love, sympathy, or scorn our way? Leave a comment below!

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XY Bumps and Rumps

by James Adams

This is the fifth installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

One month of XY blogs! Yes! If I’ve counted correctly (never a sure thing), this will be our lucky thirteenth blog post.

My blogging time is limited, because we be rehearsing all day...

My blogging time is limited, because we be rehearsing all day…

Now that I feel very accomplished for blogging maniacally, and now that most everybody should be caught up on XY’s current state of affairs, I’ll be scaling down to weekly entries. DON’T WORRY – you’ll still get Memory Mondays, What’s Happening Wednesdays, and Future Fridays – they’ll just alternate every week instead of all appearing within days of each other. You’re not worried, are you? Good.

Actually, XY has plenty of reasons to worry this week. As it gets closer and closer to game day (the start of our Fall 2013 West Coast Tour), the gods of chance and disaster get hungrier for our souls. Case in point: while at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival this weekend, I nearly cut the tip off of my thumb with a mango slicer. Yes, this is the same thumb I use to pick guitar strings. No, the mango slicer did not look sharp when I tried to reach past it for a large spoon in my friend’s drawer.

...and rehearsing all night. Sleep is for people who aren't getting ready for a tour.

…and rehearsing all night. Sleep is for people who aren’t getting ready for a tour.

I can still play cajón, and Michael can approximate my guitar parts with enough pizzaz that our rehearsals continue. Still, other threats loom over us: for one, Christian has arrived to rehearsal with a Carl’s Jr. burger so many times now that we’re worried he’ll go into cardiac arrest. For another, we’ve had to find someone to fill Macain’s shoes on the tour, as he’ll be taking care of important business back home. (No, “important business” is not a euphemism for drinking as much Diet Coke as the human body an handle.)

You read that correctly: circumstances have forced us to accommodate another change to the starting lineup for this fall. You have permission to cry for us now. The upside of Mac’s absence is Andrew Abaria, whose talent (and fashion sense) have already made manageable the herculean task of teaching our songs to yet another new mind. Andrew’s admirable backside and red piano can be seen in the photo to the right.

You’ll be seeing plenty more of all our admirable backsides as we post photos leading up to and during the tour. Any special requests?

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Wings of Darkness, Champions of Light

by James Adams

This is the fourth installment of Memory Mondays, where we give you a glimpse into XY Unlimited’s turbulent, glorious, and frequently embarrassing past. You can compound our shame or bolster our pride by leaving a comment below. 

[We published this inspiring parable as part of our May 2013 bid to be #1 on ArtistSignal]

Today may be our last blog about pigeons until we play for them on tour. Actually, it’s more a glimpse into Michael’s brain, which pigeons inhabit.


Michael and this guy share a life condition.

Michael has a special connection with the earth’s winged creatures. The pigeon, especially, has fascinated him since childhood. Not only do pigeons embody gentleness and determination, Michael eagerly points out at any opportunity, but they are essentially doves of a different color – and don’t we all love doves just soooooo much? Indeed, his steadfast defense of pigeons causes one to reexamine one’s groundless contempt for the birds.

Thus Michael has assumed the role of Pigeon Paladin, in both our band and the wider world. For those of you uninitiated in fantasy archetypes, paladins are holy knights who seek out and smite evil wherever can find it. Though there’s rarely any evil to smite that threatens pigeons, Michael almost found some on our April 2013 Midwest tour.

The scene of the crime. And of good burgers.

The scene of the crime. And of good burgers.

We were dining at a local grill called Bubs (pronounced “boobs,” according to their menu) in Winona, MN. Michael opened the menu to look through and select his dead cow product of choice (had to insert a bit of irony, sorry). In doing so, he happened upon a disturbing menu item simply labeled “pigeon wings.”

Michael stared at his menu and grew quiet. When our waitress arrived to take the food order, the other band members asked for a variety of delicious meat and non-meat burgers. Then it came time for Michael to order. With the restraint of a patient tiger and the holy flame of justice burning in his eyes, Michael asked the waitress if the restaurant truly served pigeon. The rest of the band exchanged knowing looks. Uh-oh.

The waitress raised her eyebrows at Michael in polite disbelief. “Umm…that’s chicken” she explained with a hint of scorn in her voice. “It’s a joke.”

Michael deflated a bit in both relief and, I think, disappointment. He ordered the taco salad and let her continue on her way. We enjoyed a peaceful, pigeon-less meal – and only teased Michael a little bit for being the one person in 1,000 who would actually ask if a menu item contained real pigeon.

Though the Pigeon Paladin rarely finds a quest worthy of his zeal, he remains ever vigilant.

Have you ever encountered a menu item that made you raise your eyebrows? Would you have asked about the pigeon wings? Michael will be taking notes. 😉

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Will Pigeons Enjoy XY Unlimited?

by James Adams

This is the fourth installment of Future Fridays, where you find out what XY Unlimited dreams about when it’s sleeping. Sometimes you can change the future by leaving us feedback about our plans!

After confirming six shows for our November 2013 West Coast Tour, I think we’re about to close in on our golden goose: a private show for the staff and volunteers of MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Rescue!

On our very first Future Friday’s blog, I asked the universe to make us MickaCoo’s spokesband. Since the universe rarely listens to me, I emailed MickaCoo directly:

XY Stairs

I mean, how could you say no to these guys?

Subject: Can we play a show for MickaCoo staff and volunteers?
Dear MickaCoo,
My name is James Adams, and I’m one of four members in the acoustic pop/rock vocal group XY Unlimited. One of our band members, Michael, is absolutely obsessed with pigeons and doves. He loves the work you do, and so do the rest of us.
We’ll soon be heading up the West Coast for a tour (you can read about it on our blog) and we though it might be fun to play a free private show for MickaCoo staff and volunteers. Moreover, it would give us a great excuse to promote your work!
It would be an unplugged show, so it would probably sound a lot like this (music starts at 2:50). We wouldn’t want to disturb the birdies, so it could take place anywhere you feel is appropriate.
Let us know what you think – we’d love to find a way to make it work out! Thanks for your time, and all you do.Sincerely,
James Adams

I’ve sent plenty of emails into the aether with never an acknowledgement. Imagine my surprise and delight when the following reply popped into our inbox:


Valiant, one of MickaCoo’s residents, provides valuable PR for the sanctuary.

Re: Can we play a show for MickaCoo staff and volunteers?
Hello James, Michael, Christian & Macain!
Yes! What a kind and wonderful idea! We would love that! We’re honored by the offer and welcome your support and serenading.
Regarding MickaCoo staff & volunteers, we’re spread out all over the Bay Area. That said, I’m sure we could find a place to hang out and listen to your great music and appreciate some pigeons. Let’s figure it out. Do you have a date in mind?
Thank you! Yay for pigeon & dove love!
MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue

As you can see, the powers-that-be over at the rescue are also quite personable. We we we we we so excited. Now only one question remains: will the Pigeons like our music?

At this point you might think our blog is mostly about pigeons and pizza. You’re not far off. Actually, that’s pretty much all we stand for. Case in point, our upcoming Memory Monday: “Michael, Pigeon Paladin.” Subscribe now and never miss an entry!

If you could espouse the cause of any creature on earth, which would you choose? And how would you do so? Personally I’d put on armor and defend rhinos, but there’s some red tape with that one.

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Domino’s May Be Right

by James Adams

This is the fourth installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

Robot Pizza

Robots: powered by pizza. Lets just hope they don’t start eating it.

Good things happen over pizza. Domino’s argues this point well in their newest ad campaign and, though some halibut enthusiasts object, recent experience forces us to concur.

Amidst the chaos and beauty of preparing for our West Coast tour, we’ve squeezed in two pizza-fueled moments of progress:

“Happily Retired”

A fan recently commissioned us to produce a composition he wrote and sang for his wife upon her retirement. The song is not only incredibly sweet, but also pretty darn catchy – he’s hoping it will become the “Happy Birthday” of retirement celebrations.  Since last Wednesday, we’ve recorded old-timey drums, bass and guitar, and have now successfully created a track that sounds like the overworld theme from Super Mario World. This pleases us.

A pizza

Dat kale. Dat vegan cheese.

After six long hours of recording, we took a break to enjoy some gluten-free, dairy-free Pitfire Pizza. I know that such a pizza seems really lame and wimpy, but consider the serious determination it takes not to order cheesy, meaty goodness. Actually, Pitfire makes it pretty easy – their gf-df pizza is atrociously good.

Ninja Assassin Christian

XY hit another milestone this week: our first record label meeting. Michael and I invited Christian along to get a third XY brain in the room, assuming he would match our uninformed scrappiness with his own. The label reps brought us up to a classy boardroom in Burbank and delivered what I thought was a rather thorough and appealing proposal. I asked a couple of carefully-considered questions intended to make me appear wise and informed, as did Michael. After receiving satisfactory answers, I assumed the meeting would soon wrap up.

Christian had other plans. Like us, he began with a couple of soft-pitch inquiries about the label in general. Then, pleasant and charming all the while, he launched into a series of specific and technical questions about the label’s business operations, experience, accounting, and a number of other topics that would have made even a music business robot‘s brain explode. I lost count of the questions, but when one of the label execs started explaining the inner workings of an obscure instrument one of his colleagues had invented and Christian actually knew what he was talking about, I realized that Christian had somehow assumed complete control of the meeting.


Needless to say, Michael and I were impressed and awed. We rewarded Christian with more Pitfire Pizza, where we gathered afterward to discuss the meeting. While waiting for our order, Christian leaned over and inscribed the house colors into a nearby chalkboard. We’re still getting to know Christian, but it seems a vigilant and loyal XY warrior has joined our ranks. The gods smile on us. Especially the pizza gods.

Is Domino’s right? Does pizza truly inspire greatness? Weigh in with your pizza experiences (or doubts) below.

When you’re finished, check out our new “Band Member Quotes” section above, updated every Wednesday and filled with the most heartfelt and embarrassing sentences that someone takes the time to record!

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